By SAMANTHA SMITH, Staff Writer | Published August 23, 2019
ATLANTA—If you’ve ever attended a Eucharistic Congress, you may have seen women dressed all in white and men with swords standing guard during the morning procession. These men and women are members of the Knights of Peter Claver, an African American Catholic lay organization founded 110 years ago in Mobile, Alabama.
This year, the Knights of Peter Claver held its 104th national convention Aug. 2-7 at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta.
The six-day convention included meetings on social justice issues, college scholarship awards, updates on the order and social events. The social fundraisers included the Gospel Extravaganza that supported the “Educate the Religious” fund and the White Linen Dance benefitting the Earl Harvey Kidney Fund and education on Father Augustus Tolton and his cause for canonization.
The Knights of Peter Claver, named for St. Peter Claver, was founded in November 1909. There are more than 16,000 members in the 700 units or chapters throughout the United States and one in Colombia, South America founded in 2006.
The six divisions of the organization include the Knights of Peter Claver (KPC), Fourth Degree Knights, Junior Knights, Ladies Auxiliary, Junior Daughters and Ladies of Grace.
The purpose of the organization is to “render service to God and his holy church, render aid and assistance to the sick and disabled and promote social and intellectual association among our members,” according to the KPC website.
Over 1,300 members of the organization attended the convention in Atlanta.
“I hope you will fellowship with one another, welcome a new member and learn something that you can take with you to your home court. May this convention fill our hearts with God’s love and patience, bringing us closer to him in all we do,” said Thayes Sturgis, Gulf Coast district deputy and member of court #300 at Our Lady of Lourdes Church, Atlanta.
An expression of evangelization
A Mass of Thanksgiving was held on Sunday, Aug. 4 at the Georgia World Congress Center.
Cardinal Peter Turkson, native of Ghana, celebrated the Mass. Concelebrants included Bishop Shelton J. Fabre of the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux, Louisiana and Bishop Martin Holley, formerly of the Diocese of Memphis.
“What a wonderful expression this is of evangelization,” said Bishop Fabre, former national chaplain of the Knights of Peter Claver.
Cardinal Turkson prayed that God would bless, nourish and strengthen the attendees to become his witnesses on earth.
Since 2017, the cardinal has served as the head of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, which “expresses the Holy See’s concern for issues of justice and peace, including those related to migration, health, charitable works and the care of creation.”
During his homily, Cardinal Turkson talked about how we understand the meaning of life.
What happens under the sun appears to be meaningless, he said. However, “where God is there is no meaninglessness … everything has meaning and everything has sense,” said the cardinal.
Jesus’ death on the cross shows us that life does not end with death, he explained.
“In Christ Jesus, our purpose of living changes,” said Cardinal Turkson. God assures us that there is meaning in everything, and “all that he calls us is to trust him and to lay our lives in his hands,” he said.
“When we are baptized into Christ and place everything in his hands, we are empowered also to transform the world knowing where the power of existence comes from,” said Cardinal Turkson. This knowledge makes us evangelizers, he added.
Members of the Knights of Peter Claver were liturgical readers, singers and ushers during the Mass.
Joining the fight against trafficking
During the convention, many gathered for a public meeting on human trafficking held Aug. 4.
“We cannot stop human trafficking until enough people are so horrified by it that we can do nothing less than take action to end it,” said Kat Doyle, director of Justice and Peace Ministries for the Archdiocese of Atlanta.
Human trafficking describes the many forms of exploitation of human beings, with victims often including the most vulnerable in society; abused children who’ve run away from home, women with few job skills or immigrants who fear deportation or retaliation against their families.
In February, there were 169 arrests over an 11-day human trafficking investigation in Atlanta leading up to the Super Bowl, according to the FBI Atlanta office.
We need to raise our voices to change the laws and penalties so that the risk outweighs the reward, said Doyle.
“That’s when we begin to make a change in society and social behavior,” she said.
Doyle encouraged everyone to take the first step against human trafficking by adding the National Human Trafficking Hotline number to cell phones. The hotline number is 888-373-7888.
Pastor Donna Lynne Hubbard of Revelation SEED Ministries is a certified human trafficking awareness trainer with Airline Ambassadors International. She was a victim of human trafficking for seven years.
Hubbard said that she was traded for sporting event tickets, cases of weapons, drugs and bets.
“It didn’t matter, I was property,” she said.
Victims can be anyone, look like anything and come from anywhere, said Hubbard. “Traffickers count on us being too busy to see and to look at what’s going on,” she said.
Both Doyle and Hubbard explained the importance of “when you see something, say something.” They agreed that it is more important to call the hotline number, even if you may be wrong about the situation.
In addition to reporting what we see, “we have to decriminalize sex trafficking for victims,” said Hubbard. We have to be communities that embrace victims, she said.
“Everyone can make a difference,” said Hubbard.
The presentations were met with applause, soon followed by questions. Supreme Lady Micaela J.A. Le Blanc and Supreme Knight James K. Ellis encouraged members to be more involved in the fight against human trafficking.
“I want each of us to take stock in what we’ve learned today,” said Supreme Lady Le Blanc. “As Catholics, we answer the call to action.”
“Let this be a daily job to keep our eyes open,” said Supreme Knight Ellis.
The Knights of Peter Claver may be found online at www.kofpc.org. The Mass of Thanksgiving for its national convention and conclave was broadcast on EWTN and is featured on the organization’s website.